Hospitalists are physicians whose primary focus is providing medical care to patients who are admitted to the hospital. On-site hospitalists ensure that nurses and patients have access to an in-house physician around the clock, even on nights and weekends.
“The hospitalist is a relatively new specialty,” Walt Fairfax, M.D., Kootenai Health chief medical officer, said. “It has developed in the past 10 to 15 years as primary care physicians have been unable to manage both their clinics and hospitalized patients.”
Kootenai’s hospitalists have internal medicine or family medicine backgrounds, are board-certified and are experienced in the care of acutely ill patients. The biggest benefit to having hospitalists on staff for patients is having direct access to a physician who specializes in inpatient medicine at all times. Hospitalists also stay in contact with their patients’ primary care physicians to help ensure patients are well cared for after leaving the hospital. Depending on the length of the hospital stay, several physicians may treat a patient while they are in the hospital. Hospitalists work together and collaborate as a team with primary care physicians, members of Kootenai’s nursing staff, therapists, dietitians and social workers to provide a consistent level of care and symptom management for each patient.
“Having inpatient care assigned to hospitalists allows primary care physicians to focus on their outpatient care and helps with the flow of patient care at the hospital,” Scott Loss, M.D., hospitalist, said. “We are working with the nurses and staff members every day and are very familiar with the hospital’s best care practices.”
Hospitalists see many patients each day. To provide the highest level of care for all patients, they work closely with advanced practice professionals, such as physician assistants and nurse practitioners, so all patients can be seen more frequently. Often after being discharged from the hospital, patients will need to follow up with their
primary care physician. Because many patients do not have a family doctor prior to their hospital stay, hospitalists can also work with patients and Kootenai’s social workers to find a doctor to best fit with a patient’s needs, insurance, and availability.